The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Powdered Sour source?

patrad's picture

Powdered Sour source?

Hello everyone. . .first time long time. . . 

I've been going through a Polish cookbook of mine with the desire to make Polish Rye like many places here in Chicago.  Just wondering if anyone has a suggested source for "powdered sour" which the author describes as "An integral ingredient that gives Rye bread its distinctive mellow, tangy, sour flavor.  Powdered sour is available at any quality baking supply house or through mail order"


1) What is a good source for this either online or in Chicago?  A cursory search of the internet did not help me immediatley . . which leads me to

2) Searching for "powdered sour" reveals links to "powedered sour cream" . . same thing?  related?

3) I do have an active starter, would using this at any point help eliminate the need for powdered sour?  Any other suggested possible recipe substitutes?  



mrfrost's picture

Using a real sourdough starter probably does eliminate the need for the artificial stuff. With the variabilities in taste among "starters" however, one may need to be versed in manipulating a starter(yeasted or natural/wild) to get the desired "sourness".

In any case, although your reference may(or may not) be referring to a specific product or brand, KAF seems to carry what may be a similar item(sure to be mocked by some of the purists here):

KAF Deli Rye Flavor

Although probably a little less similar, another of their products seems to help in serving the same, along with heiping with the rise:

I don't believe they are carrying it right now but they used to have:

Then there's a possibility it may be referring to "sour salt" which I believe is just a form of citric acid.

JustinB's picture

I know we carry a powdered sourdough starter packet at our store (specialty grocery in northern Cali). Try looking in a more specialized store near the baking goods/flour that carries your not-so-typical run of the mill items.


That said, the recipe we use calls for the starter, not powder, but I'm sure recipes vary depending on what you need to achieve

Chuck's picture

My guess is "powdered sour" refers to what's more often called "sour salt" these days, which is actually plain old citric acid. This stuff is available fairly readily (although your regular grocery store may either shelve it in the canning section or not carry it at all).

You use small amounts to impart a tang (too much and everything tastes like lemons:-).

(It's highly questionable whether or not some sort of flavoring such as sour salt is really necesary to give the expected flavor to either sourdough rye or sour rye [they're different]. This sounds suspiciously like a "shortcut trick" used by high-volume mediocre-quality producers... Look at other books too, harvest some stories from some old-timers, try it both ways.)

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

Try Fruit Fresh (or equivalent).  I don't know that it's the same thing but I use it in several recipes (such as dosai) for a similar purpose.

patrad's picture

As for reputation, who knows. . this is the occampanying blurb for the recipe (which also calls for 7.5 teaspoons of VWG).  Sounds pretty authentic to me, shortcut or no.  My personal thought is that this is actually how the commerical bakeries do it. . . I'm positive most Polish groceries may have it in Chicago. . problem is I don't speak Polish and that can be an issue I've run into.


"About 25 years ago, I worked at a bakery on the Northwest side of Chicago around Milwaukee and Devon called Forest View.  Ony my last day my firend Stashu, the head baker, took me aside and said, "Mihawik, every young baker needs at least one good rye bread recipe."  With that said he handed me a recipe scribbled in Polish on a used flour sack.  Needless to say, I was deeply touched, but also confused becasue I don't read Polish and the recipe was for about 250 loaves.  It wasn't until years later that I had the faded recipe interpreted and finally broken down to a managable size.  I consider this to be the best rye bread made in the city of Chicago.   The recipe produces a smaller sized loaf, tight grained with slightly sour and caraway undertones, complimented by a shiny, chewy crust.  This bread is just a tad darker than other ryes in the book, but that is just a play on flour ratios.  I recomend eating it with smoked Polish sausage, kraut and pork, bigos or kiszka and eggs." The New Polish Cuisine, Chef Michael J. Baruch

Chuck's picture

I suspect if you get a couple good old-fashioned bakers, one from First City(east)  and the other from Second City, and prompt them to start arguing about how to make rye bread and whose is better...

(I'd hate to be in the middle. Fortunately you can make your own choice for yourself, which might even be NYC style for odd numbered batches and Chicago style for even numbered batches:-)

I've heard of at least one rye bread recipe that calls for leaving the loaves in the oven all night as it cools, which is a specific example illustrating that even though small one-off bakeries don't do it quite like the factories, they probably don't do it exactly like you can at home either.

patrad's picture

I'd also add the book was published in 2002 so I'm not sure names of common items would have changed.  For instance I think the author would have mentioned citric acid as a equivalent.  

mrfrost's picture

Rereading your op, the description is eerily similar to that of the third product linked in my first reply, the "Heidelberg" sour. Unfortunately, again, they don't seem to carry it right now. You might contact them(KAF) to try and find their source, or try their other rye flavors/enhancers etc.

Reading the ingredients lists of all those items, the common ones seem to be acetic acid, citric acid, lactic acid, etc, in various concentrations.

Chuck's picture

Google points to the company Brolite in Streamwood Illinois (wherever the heck that is:-) which seems to have lots of variations on "powdered rye sour", including the "Heidelberg" variety if KAF really doesn't carry it any more even though they still list it in their webstore. (This suggests that maybe it's a regional thing that's common in one area of the country but almost unheard of elsewhere.)

mrfrost's picture


dmsnyder's picture

Sour salt (aka citric acid) is used traditionally in Polish cooking to provide the sour flavor in sweet and sour dishes. You shouldn't have difficulty finding it. However, I don't think that's what you want for rye bread.

A while back, there was a thread about packets of "sour" purchased in Germany or Austria, as I recall, that is somewhat like a dried rye sourdough starter. I don't know if that's what KAF sells as "Rye Bread Improver" or as "Deli Rye Flavor." They used to have another product, if memory serves, called something like "Heidelberg Rye Flavor."  I have found KAF extremely helpful and informative when I've called their help line. (802.649.3717)

MiniO may recall more about the German product.

Now, my own uninformed opinion is that, if you take the trouble to nurture a healthy rye sour (sourdough culture fed with rye flour), you don't need any enhancers or other additives. 


Addendum: Aha! The two neurons I have left still connect! Here's a link to a discussion of the German product: Commercial 'Sauerteig' / Sourdough culture from "Seitenbacher". I'm betting this is what your recipe calls for.


nicodvb's picture

but the content doesn't even remotely remind my rye sourdough. The color tends to a orange hue and the aroma is quite spicy. If I hadn't known the content I would have mistaken it for a blend of turmeric and saffron.

Of course it's not the KAF powder, but a local product.

Janknitz's picture

It was very common in eastern European recipes.  My mom used to buy it to make homemade beet borscht and sweet and sour cabbage.  

You can get 2 oz of citric acid for about $1.50 from home beer and wine supply stores like



dmsnyder's picture

I've only seen sour salt sold as rather large, transparent crystals. The Polish recipe calls for a "powder." Now, citric acid crystals could surely be ground to a powder, but I still bet the recipe is calling for a flavoring agent that is specifically for rye bread.


Addendum: Another "Aha!" Here's a link to the KAF Heidelberg Rye Sour - 4 oz. which is not currently available. Note the description of this product:

  • "Add a few teaspoonfuls at a time to your favorite rye bread recipe to produce that typical bakery rye flavor you've been missing.
  • Produces a distinctively mellow, tangy sour flavor." (Emphasis added)
  • This is identical to the description from the recipe quoted in the OP.
  • I rest my case.
  • David

    patrad's picture


    I concur.  The only other similar products I've found online are listed here. Chowhound peeps tend to think it's citric acid.  I'm going to hit up a few Polish stores and try my luck to find something not citric acid per se.  I've got the time to maybe perform some expierments.  Will post here if I find anything of use.



    Frequent Flyer's picture
    Frequent Flyer

    ...benefits from acidity, whether it's from a sourdough starter (often called a rye sour) or vinegar or citric acid.

    I agree with others that say that your starter is probably sufficient.


    Mini Oven's picture
    Mini Oven

    a little sweet, vinegar like and fruity, and yes... sour.  Reminds me of sour dried apples & pears but it is a fine powder.  Wish I knew what it is called.

    Anyway...  Try putting a piece or two of your first sourdough loaf into the next loaf.

    Looking up backferment reveals a special honey fed sourdough sold in granulate form developed in 1920 in southern Germany.  Sold in powder form and meets the description.

    marils's picture

    When making extra sour rye bread, and the recipe calls for powdered sour, use powdered vinegar.  It is inexpensive, and the same stuff they use on salt and vinegar potato chips.  An even cheaper alternative is to simply use vinegar. Don't be afraid, people have been using vinegar in pie crusts for a long time.   You might want to start with about 2 tsps. (10 grams), of liquid vinegar and then add as much as you like, depending on the size of your recipe.  If you want to explore other sour rye breads, I suggest you search recipes for buttermilk rye, and sauerkraut rye.  Sauerkraut can give the bread a nice aroma and moistness.  King Arthur Flour used to offer a Heidelburg Sour Rye mix in, which has been discontinued.  However, they now offer a Sourdough mix in that gives you the flavor of sourdough, without having to use a starter.  Beer Rye Bread also has a tang to it, but the tang is a bit different than Polish Rye... still it is very nice.

    You can find many sources of powdered vinegar on the internet. 

    Using a few teaspoons of vinegar should not hurt your starter.  However, I cannot say at what point (quantity) the addition of an acid might affect your starter.  Again, it depends on several variables, including the type of flour you use and the size of your recipe.

    Happy baking.


    Frazestart's picture

    When you mentioned powdered sour, my first thought was citric acid also called sour salt, which  I've used to make ricotta. The brand I got comes in a shaker.  I found it in the Kosher/Passover section at the supermarket.

    vtsteve's picture

    Since the original formula was for a 250-loaf batch, I think it's probably similar to this: - a commercial product prepared from... dried, fermented rye flour. Just substitute a mature rye starter (use the flour weight of the starter for the powdered product, and subtract the starter water from the dough water) - I bet you'll get a superior product. If you check the catalog of any bakery wholesaler, you'll find pages and pages of bread bases and flavorings, all in easy-to-store 50 lb. sacks :-).